The Porta Metronia is probably named for a certain Metrobius, who used to own various properties in the area. Another name it was known by is Porta Gabiusa. This is because the road that used to lead to the ancient Volscian city of Gabii used to start here. This road more or less corresponds to the present Via Gallia.
Initially the Porta Metronia was no more than a so-called posterula, a small secret exit out of the city. This is clear because it was included at the base of a small tower on the inside of the wall. Had it been a real gate, it would have been flanked by defensive towers on each side.
In the 12th century the Porta Metronia was closed. The gate became used for a passage of a marrana, as the Romans called ditches that ran through the city. This ditch started near Grottaferrata and was brought to Rome by Pope Callisto II. A grating was put in front of the passage, so that smugglers could not enter the city.
After flowing through the gate, the ditch continued towards the San Sisto Vecchio Church, and via the Circus Maximus ended in the Tiber. Here, in the area called Cloaca Maxima, it fed 14 water mills.
The ditch created a swampy area outside the gate, which came to be called “il Pantano”. Often the stagnant water was the cause of epidemics. This swampy area was completely filled up in the beginning of the 20th century. The Marrana itself was diverted to end in the river Almone.
The gate itself has been bricked up, but its contours are still visible. It is much lower than the present street level.
On both sides of the Porta Metronia there are two arches. On one side these stem from the fascist period and on the other from the period after the war. They were created to facilitate the flow of traffic.
The two plaques on the inside refer to restoration works in 1157 and in 1579.
The 1157 restoration was carried out by the People and the Senate of Rome. The inscription states the names of the counsillors who had had the work commissioned. In those days the city displayed a strong streak of independence from the church, which is why the Pope is not mentioned in the inscription.
In the 16th century, as the inscription shows, times had changed. Pope Gregorius XIII made sure that everyone knew that it was he who had had the gate fixed out of his own pocket, 421 years after the last restoration.
The Porta Latina is named for the Via Latina, which led from Rome to what is now Capua, but was at the time still called Casilinum. In those days this territory was taken up by the 30 or so villages that were part of the Latin League. This was a confederation, founded to create a protection against common enemies. Initially these enemies were the Etruscans, but later they came to include the Romans. Still later Rome joined the Latin League, then took a dominant role and finally submitted the other villages. In 338 BC the organization was disbanded.
In the Republican Age (509-27 BC) the road started, together with the Old Appian Way, at the Porta Capena. The two roads separated near what is now the Piazzale di Numa Pompilio. The initial name of the street is now Via di Porta Latina. After the gate it becomes Via Latina.
Initially the opening was 6.55 metres tall and 4.20 metres wide. Between 401 and 403 Emperor Honorius had this reduced to 5.65 by 3.73 metres. The outline of the original fornix is still visible. The reduction of the wall was part of a completely restructuring to make it easier to defend the city. Honorius also had the right tower rebuilt and the travertine facade restructured.
In the middle ages the right tower was again restored.
Both in 1576 and in 1656 the gate was closed during an epidemic of the plague.
After the construction of the Via Appia Nuova the gate lost importance.
Until the early 20th century it was only open when there were special events at the San Giovanni a Porta Latina Church. Even when the Italian troops tried to enter the city here in 1870, they ended up having to give up on the attempt. Their brothers in arms at the Porta Pia ended up having more luck, though, which is why Italy now exists.
The two windowless semicircular towers on each side have holes that were to be used by archers. The five openings in the upper part were created during the reign of Honorius.
The keystone of the outer arch has the Constantinian Chi Ro monogram on it. The Greek letters forming this monogram stand for Christ. To the left and right of the monogram the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (alpha and omega) can be seen, symbolizing the beginning and the end.
The Greek cross on the inner side of the arch is also a Christian symbol.
The entrance could be closed off with a hinged gate on the inside and with a portcullis on the outside.
There is a small door behind the western door, which gives access to a walkway and a room with 17th century walls. According to legend the god Saturn hid in this chamber from his son Jupiter after the latter had dethroned him.
What is now the Ospedale del Celio in Rome is built on the area that used to be occupied by the ancient Villa Casali. After the unification of Italy a big part of the villa was ddestroyed to make space for new constructions.
Ospedale del Celio Rome
The villa started its existence as property of the family Massimo, who later sold it ti the family Teofoli. Later Marquis Mario Casali inherited it from his wife Margherita di Sertorio Teofili.
At the end of the 17th century, the Casali had a house constructed by the architect Tommaso Mattei. They also had an enormous garden laid out.
In 1871 the city decided to develop the area. The owners of the land were supposed to build houses and the city would take care of the infrastructure.
Initially most of the villa was saved. However, in 1884, having decided to build a military hospital on its grounds, the city bought everything and five years later completely destroyed it. More than 50000 m² of green area disappeared.
The new military hospital was constructed between 1884 and 1889. It was designed by Colonel Luigi Durand de la Penne together with the architect Salvatore Bianchi.
It consists of a series of 30 pavilions, connected by galleries and metal walkways.
Works of art
Of the works of art collected by Cardinal Antonio Casali many were lost. Others ended up in Copenhagen’s Ny Carlsbergh Glyptotek. These include the “Casali Sarcophagus”, the “Antinoo Casali” and a mosaic depicting the “Rape of Europe”.
During excavations for the foundations of the hospital several ancient structures were unearthed.
The Basilica Hilariana was built by the pearl merchant Manius Publicius Hilarus. One of the most interesting finds was a mosaic with a depiction of the evil eye, which can now be viewed in the Antiquario Comunale del Celio. The building consisted of a porticoed courtyard surrounded by various rooms. It was probably used as a sort of temple for the followers of the goddess Cybele, who was know as the Magna Mater (“Great mother”) and was a very important deity in ancient Rome. The base of a statue dedicated to Hilarus himself, was also found in this spot.
Other ruins uneartehd in the area include those of the house of the Simmaci, a senatorial family in the Imperial era.
Rome‘s Villa Celimontana, which is located on the western slope of the Celio hill and at only a short distance from the Colosseum, acquired its present name in the year 1925. The park was founded in the year 1580 by the Mattei family.
Villa Celimontana Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Via della Navicella, 12 – Rome. Opening hours: 07.00 till 19.00. Admission: Free.
History Villa Celimontana Rome
Already in ancient times the Celio hill was famous for its lush vegetation and abundant spring water. It used to be called Mons Querquetulanus (“Mount of Oaks”). Later it became a vineyard, which Duke Ciriaco Mattei in the 16th century transformed into a park.
The works lasted from 1581 till 1586. The architect was Giacomo del Duca, who in the past had worked with Michelangelo. In 1597 Giovanni and Domenico Fontana added a number of fountains, sculptures and other decorations.
In the 19th century the park was transformed into an English garden. There were three secret gardens and even an obelisk that in 1582 was taken from the Ara Coeli and donated to Ciriaco Mattei by the city. The obelisk originally came from Heliopolis. Ramses II had dedicated it to the sun god Ra.
Ciriaco‘s son Gian Battista changed the building into a private residence and bought more land in order to enlarge the gardens. He also had a labyrinth of hedges inserted.
Later the villa’s collections disappeared and the villa itself changed ownership. In 1813 the Spanish minister Manuel Godoy had the gardens transformed into a park.
In 1915 it was bought by the state and 10 years later it was aquired by the city and made into a public park.
The present entrance to the Villa is found on the Via Celimontana, near the Piazza della Navicella and the Chiesa di Santa Maria in Domnica. Its original entrance was on the northern side, at the Piazza SS. Giovanni e Paolo.
Entering the park at the main entrance you immediately see the main building. This is called Palazzetto Mattei and houses the Italian Geographic Society.
If you follow the Viale Cardinale Francesco Spellman from here, you will come to some archeological ruins, followed by a neo-Gothic temple. The archeological ruins stem from the times of Trajan and Flavius. A great part of what was found during excavations is on display in the Vatican Museums.
There is a Belvedere, which overlooks the Semenzaio di San Sisto. On your left the obelisk of Ramses II is visible. There are a number of 17th century fountains and other decorations. Unfortunately many of the fountains Gian Lorenzo Bernini had made to embellish the villa have disappeared.
Villa Celimontana, which makes a far more natural impression than the more famous Villa Borghese, is full of statues and columns. There is also an obelisk, which was given to Ciriaco Mattei after having spent the first part of its Roman existence (until the middle of the 19th century) at the foot of the steps of the Ara Coeli, was brought to the Eternal City from Heliopolis and dedicated by Ramses II to the God of the Sun, Ra.
There is a small children’s playground in the Villa Celimontana and every summer the park hosts a jazz festival. You can rent ponies near the playground.
The Villa Celimontana is bordered by the San Gregorio al Celio Park.
The Baths of Caracalla in Rome are among the most impressive monuments in the Eternal City. The largely well-preserved ruins of these ancient Roman baths are in some spots almost 40 meters high. During the summer months the Baths are used for opera performances.
Baths of Caracalla Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 52 (Rione: Celio). Tel. +39 0639967700. Metro: Circo Massimo (line B). Opening hours: From 9 a.m. to 1 hour before sunset. Mondays from 09.00 to 13.00. Price: 8 Euro; 2 Euro for EU residents between 18 and 25 years old; free for young people below age 18 and disabled people. The Appia Antica Card, the Archeologia Card and the Roma Pass are valid at the Terme di Caracalla. On the first Sunday of the month, a visit to the monument is free of charge. Italian name: Terme di Caracalla.
There were a number of public baths in Roman times, but these were the most impressive, with walls as high as 37 meters. The total area is about 10 hectares.
Caracalla started construction of the Baths bearing his name in the year 212. Its inauguration took place in 216.
The word Terme itself was a corruption of the Greek word for “hot springs”, Thèrmai.
The Terme di Caracalla functioned until the year 537, when the aqueducts leading water to the Baths were destroyed by the Goths. Even before that the baths had already been restored several times.
The Baths were then abandoned and became a sort of mine that was plundered by anybody in need of building materials. Despite this ransacking , the Baths of Caracalla are still the best example of thermal baths in the times of the Roman Empire.
The Baths of Caracalla consisted of a large central building, surrounded by a number of rooms. Four gates gave access to the complex.
The Terme could accommodate more than 1,500 people. Visitors could take a Turkish bath and relax in the calidarium (a room with hot water tanks), the tepidarium (lukewarm water) and the frigidarium (cold water).
There was an outdoor swimming pool called the natatio and also a kind of gym and a library in the complex.
Wealthier Romans could also pay to get massages.
Excavations took place in the 16th and 17th centuries. A good deal of the statues found during the excavations ended up in the private collection of the Farnese family. The two tubs that adorn Piazza Farnese were also originally from the thermal baths, while other important works of art are now on display in the Vatican Museums and the Napels National Archaeological Museum.
Underneath the complex was a network of corridors, where slaves ensured that the 50 furnaces that kept the water of the tepidarium and calidarium warm did not go out. These corridors were 6 meters wide and 6 meters high and there was even a roundabout to ensure that underground traffic ran smoothly.
The complex’s sewer system was underneath this network.
In 1912 a temple dedicated to the pagan God Mithras, who was worshipped in the east, was discovered underneath the Terme. Here young men were initiated by baptizing them in the blood of a bull slaughtered on the spot during the ceremony.
The temple consists of five rooms that communicate with the upper floor via a staircase. The large rectangular main room is closed off by cross vaults. The mosaic floor is white with black stripes. During the ceremonies, the faithful sat on two high benches against the side walls.
On one of the walls there is a fresco representing the God Mithra, together with a figure with a torch holding a sun disk in his left hand. In the middle of the room there is a rectangular slot, where the bull was probably sacrificed according to the ritual of the cult of Mithra.
This room gives access to another room with a stone bench and a small basin with a central staircase. In the Mithreum parts of an altar have been found, together with a group of statues depicting Mithra slaughtering a bull.
Women were not allowed to enter this Mithraeum, which was the largest in the entire Roman Empire.
During the summer months, the Terme di Caracalla are transformed into a temporary seat of the Teatro dell’Opera. (The first time this happened was during the fascist period, on the initiative of none other than Mussolini).
Baths of Caracalla – Viale delle Terme di Caracalla 52, Rome
The San Giovanni a Porta Latina Church in Rome is one of the city’s oldest and most picturesque churches. Although originally built in the 5th century, the present look is the fruit of several restorations that have taken place in later years. Thanks to the medieval portico, supported by classical columns, the cute well in the courtyard and the enormous cedar tree providing shade many Romans choose to have their wedding pictures taken at San Giovanni in Porta Latina. Continue reading “San Giovanni a Porta Latina Church Rome”
The Chiesa dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo al Celio in Rome was built in 398, at the exact spot where the house of Giovanni and Paolo was located. Giovanni and Paolo were two Roman notables who became martyrs in the year 361 through the heathen Emperor Giuliano l’ApostataContinue reading “Santi Giovanni and Paolo Church Rome”
The Fontana della Navicella (“Fountain of the Small Boat”) can be found on the Via della Navicella in front of the church of Santa Maria in Domnica in the rione Celio in Rome. It was built in 1519 and probably replaced an earlier damaged version.
Fontana della Navicella Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Via della Navicella. Opening hours and admission: The Fontana della Navicella can be seen from outside.
The Fontana della Navicella is thought to have been built in the years 1518-19, based on a project by Sansovino (who was also responsible for restoration of the church).
In 1514 Sansovino had also restored the Santa Maria in Domnica Church.
It is not the first fountain in this spot. Before the present version there used to be a marble boat representing a Roman galley, probably a votive offering to the goddess Isis.
Isis was the protectress of sailors. Probably the ship was found near the Colosseum. According to one theory it was connected to Egyptian sailors passing through Rome and sleeping in the nearby Castro Peregrinorum, a barracks for soldiers not stationed in Rome. Another possibility is that it was placed here by the sailors who took care of the velarium, the great veils protecting the Colosseum from the sun.
From the central part of the boat’s bridge, a jet of water emerges and lands in the basin below. The coat of arms on the foundation is that of Pope Leo X Medici.
The ship is raised on a marble stone and inserted in a quadrangular flowerbed. It is protected by small columns connected by wrought iron chains.
The Arch of Constantine (Arco di Costantino) is located in the Piazza del Colosseo, right next to Rome’s most famous monument. Together with the Arco di Tito and the Arco di Settimio Severo it is one of the three remaining imperial triumphal arches in the Eternal City.
Arch of Constantine Rome
The Arch of Constantine is the biggest one of the remaining triumphal arches in Rome.
It was placed on a stretch of street between the Circus Maximus and the Arch of Titus. The Roman armies used to pass through this Via Triumphalis on their way to the Campidoglio after a having defeated the enemy in battle.
The arch was constructed to celebrate Constantine‘s army’s 312 victory over Maxentius‘ troops. Although Constantine‘s soldiers were fewer than Maxentius‘ they still managed to defeat the enemy and establish peace in the Empire. Maxentius himself was killed in this battle of Ponte Milvio.
Dedication took place in the year 315 AD.
There was an unexpected side effect to Constantine‘s victory. Since the emperor believed that his victory was thanks to the God of the Christians he had the persecutions stopped. He was influential in the 1313 Edic tof Milan, which actively declared religious tolerance for Christians in the Empire.
In the middle ages the Frangipane built a fortress between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. They transformed the arch into a tower and incorporated it into this fortress. After many restorations, it was finally “freed” in 1804.
The Arch of Constantine stands 21 meters tall and has a width of 26 meters. There are three openings, the central one being the widest (6,50m) and tallest (11,45m).
Four yellow Corinthian columns are placed against each facade. These support a trabeation on which the upper part of the arch is built.
Much of the Arch was built using parts of other, older buildings, a common practice in ancient Rome.
The eight statues on top of the arch representing Dacians originally stood in the Foro di Traiano. The two panels depicting battle scenes on the smaller sides of the attic and the ones inside the central fornix were originally part of a large high relief decorating the attic of the Basilica Ulpia.
The eight round tondi above the fornixes stem from the times of Emperor Hadrian.
The four panels flanking the inscription were taken from a four-side arch erceted by Commodus in hnour of his father Marcus Aurelius.
Some of the faces adorning the bastion were adapted to resemble the face of Constantine.
The embellishments on the middle and lower part were especially made for Constantine‘s arch, but are of lesser quality. By the time the arch was constructed, Rome had lost a lot of its power, although it was not until 330 that Constantinopel officially became the capital of the Empire. As a result, craftsmenship had also deteriorated and it had become a habit to plunder existing monuments in order to create new ones.
The sculptures on the plinths of the columns and on the archivolts of the central fornix depicting Victories were made especially for the arch. So were the personifications of the seasons on the sides of the central fornix and the river gods on the sides of the other two fornixes. The narrow panels above the minor fornixes and on the sides narrate the battle against Maxentius and were therefore also created at the time.
The frieze shows a battle scene between Maxentius and Constantine, the latter’s army chasing their opponents into the river.
The central part on both sides of the attic is taken up by a long inscription. Paraphrased, this inscription reads: “The Senate and the people of Rome dedicate this triumpal arch to the Emperor Constantine, who, through divine inspiration and the greatness of his own spirit, with righteous weapons avenged the state on a tyrant”.
According to chroniclers, Constantine supposedly had a vision before the battle, in which he was promised vicory by the Christian God if he had the sign Chi-Rho (the first letters of Christ’s name in Greek) painted on his soldiers’ shields. According to some theories, the phrase “divine inspiration” is a reference to this vision. However, Constantine did not officially declare himself Christian till just before his death.
In 1936, the Meta Sudans, a monument next to the Arch of Constantine, was demolished to make way for a new road. This brick fountain was built under Emperor Titus and supposedly used by gladiators to wash and drink after their exertions. It got the name meta because of its resemblance to the stones placed at the end of the race tracks in the circuses and sudans because of the way the water, like sweat, poured down its sides. The brown circular space in front of the Arch of Constantine is where the Meta Sudans used to be.
The monument can be seen from outside.
Address and public transport
The address of the Arco di Constantino is Via di San Gregorio. Public transport: Bus: 51, 60, 75, 81, 85, 87, 117, 175, 186, 271, 571, 673, 810, 850, C3, N2, N10. Tram: 3. Metro: Colosseo (lijn B).